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Real Estate / Houses

The Tiny House Craze Moves Into River Oaks (No, Really)

154.8 Square Foot Home Turns Heads in Houston’s Center of Glitz, Glamour and Excess

BY // 02.16.18

Preservation Tiny House Company is redefining residential and commercial spaces one pint-sized pad at a time. Little by little may be their modus operandi, but they plan to have a huge impact on both affordable housing and the modern-day retail experience.

The company designs and builds diminutive homes inspired by the historic architecture of  New Orleans, its home base. So far, they have developed three mini styles: The New Orleans Shotgun, The Creole Cottage, and The Greek Revival. Founding partner Tim Dean launched Preservation Tiny House Company in 2016.

You can find one compact creation, the KREWE Tiny House, parked in River Oaks District through March 3. The streamlined KREWE Tiny House is a scaled-down signature shotgun style house, with white-painted wood.

Inside, you won’t find a petite-as-can-be kitchenette or lofted bed. This particular project is Preservation Tiny House Company’s entrée into commercial houses.

You’ll see custom cabinets and shelf after shelf of KREWE eyewear, modern and iconic frames sported by celebrity royalty like Beyonce herself.

Stirling Barrett, photographer and founder of KREWE, finds inspiration in The Big Easy. Like Dean, Barrett’s designs are driven by the city’s iconic architecture. As a photographer, he has an eye for line, composition, and perspective. New Orleans’ colorful landscape has played a role in his eyewear creations as well.

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Each of his frames are named for New Orleans’ culture and silhouettes, such as the St. Louis line, inspired by the French Quarter’s classic cast-iron balconies. Olivier comes from the historic Algiers Point neighborhood, and Huey from the arching lines of the Mississippi River Bridge.

From the start, Dean and Barrett saw eye to eye on how the KREWE Tiny House should look.

“I felt an immediate connection with him over our shared appreciation for New Orleans architecture,” Dean tells PaperCity. “Stirling’s attention to detail and understanding of New Orleans architecture really made the design and build process a lot of fun,” he adds.

Their collaboration led to the charming KREWE Tiny House, a mobile shopping experience. Built on an 18-foot tiny house trailer, the historically accurate structure comes in at a modest 154.8 square feet. Inside, it feels anything but cramped. The white walls and white oak floors give it an almost airy feel.

It is bright, with natural sunlight pouring in through two custom skylights. “We added that feature. It was really suited to KREWE’s specific needs being a sunglasses and glasses trailer,” Dean says.

The Tiny House Life

The goal at KREWE “is to take the simple things we love, and do them better,” Barrett says. “The Tiny House movement encourages the idea of living simply through experiences that enrich our quality of life.”

KREWE has interpreted the movement through its unconventional mobile store. “We’re excited to reach our customers in a new way, wherever they might be,” Barrett says.

After a soft opening in New Orleans last February over Mardi Gras, the KREWE Tiny House traveled eastward to Florida. The several weeks slated for a stop in Alys Beach extended to several months. It later went to Austin for South by Southwest.

The independent eyewear company plans to take advantage of its popularity among the free-spirited and fashionable. The KREWE Tiny House is traveling back to Austin, New Orleans for French Quarter Fest, then Atlanta, another summer in Alys Beach, followed by a pit stop in Nashville. And that’s only the start.

Krewe tiny house trying on
The KREWE Tiny House is a mobile shopping experience inspired by New Orleans’ iconic shotgun houses.

Toting a shotgun replica trailer in the age of online shopping is a daring move, but KREWE is reaping the rewards of this risk. Barrett found that during the Tiny House’s stint in New Orleans, it experienced more foot traffic than the brick-and-mortar flagship.

“People still crave experiences. We wanted to give our customers a retail experience that wasn’t compromised by location,” Barrett says. The unconventional store offers benefits you can’t get online. And while it’s novel, it “isn’t gimmicky.”

“We see a big opportunity as retail is a very changing market these days,” Dean says. On the start-up side, the Tiny House method gives retailers the chance to invest in a space they own, instead of commercial spaces where they would have to sign leases and pay rent.

Tiny Houses run contrary to the huge shopping malls you see shutting down around the country, Dean adds. “It’s an efficiently designed small space, different from what we know as retail in the past.”

The Tiny House Build

Dean’s attention to detail and faithful imitation of true New Orleans homes is clear. The KREWE Tiny House’s frame is made of steel and produced by Volstrukt in Austin. Dean used strictly locally sourced materials for the exterior, which is historically accurate. That accounts for the metal roofing, wood trim, cypress siding, custom cypress doors and shutters, and decorative corbels.

The construction took 65 days from start to finish. The design process took two weeks, with Dean and Barrett working swiftly in sync. The house went into production in Austin, where Preservation Tiny House Company could use state of the art technology. In just three days, the metal frame was produced, assembled, attached to the trailer, and sheathed.

The frame was delivered to New Orleans, where it was finished with the historically accurate, locally sourced materials. After the time devoted to the exterior, Dean turned inwards. The custom designed, low impact HVAC systems were installed. The finishing touches — cabinets, shelving, and mirrors — created a “very flush and clean aesthetic.”

“My favorite thing about building Tiny Houses is definitely the design challenge,” Dean says. “It’s fun to have a dictated space that everything has to fit into.” Dean has built houses for the last 11 years, and he’s enjoying the creativity he’s found in working with such set parameters.

In addition to typical design and building aspects, Dean works to make Tiny Houses accommodate and embody “different lifestyle practices.” He recently completed a residence for a local musician. The custom designs involved incorporating areas where the musician could set up and use instruments, as well as the electrical requirements needed.

True Tiny Living

Dean’s true passion is “bringing Tiny Houses to the local real estate market here,” he says. “It can have a positive impact on affordable housing.”  Preservation Tiny House Company homes start at just $50,000. The company is collaborating with the University of New Orleans Department of Urban Planning to find vacant lots throughout the city that would be suitable for Tiny Houses.

Dean wants his Tiny Houses to have a positive impact on the New Orleans community and beyond. They are working to bring the mobile Tiny Houses to the city’s real estate market. A significant number of New Orleans residents cannot afford conventional houses.

“We’re happy to be part of a fun movement,” Barrett says. In his view, it’s one “that can hopefully make for a sustainable future.”

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